Communication is pretty much the only means we have of leading effectively as project managers. While listening is a big part of that, when we DO speak, we need to find ways to be heard above the surrounding din. If you want your messages to get through the commotion surrounding most projects, keep it short, keep it relevant, keep it fun. Poor communication is yet another avoidable cause of project failure. Let’s wipe it out in our lifetime!
The picture atop this blog shows a hand-drawn communications map. This chart takes less than 20 minutes to create and is more communication planning than most people do for a project. Given that the #2 reason for project failure is poor communication, and given the importance of stakeholder expectation management, I say it’s 20 minutes well spent.
There’s a lot going on in a busy project, so how can you get YOUR messages to be “the chosen ones” that pierce the consciousness of your team? Here are a few creative approaches that have been proven effective in real-world projects:
- Grab Attention. If you are co-located with your team you have a fabulous opportunity to capture their attention visually. Here are some tactics that, while unconventional, and in some cases somewhat uncouth, really work:
- Purchase a life-size cardboard figure of the celebrity of your choice (movie stars, political figures) and have them hold the project goals or next big milestone in their hands just outside of the team meeting room.
- Create a screensaver that conveys the purpose, goals, and priorities of the project. Make the background picture irresistible so that people can’t help but load it onto their computers. (The CEO playing “Whack-A-Mole” is always popular). Better yet, have IT plant this screensaver on everyone’s PC while they’re away for the weekend!
- Post the one-page project flow chart, or any other time-critical project communication, inside the restrooms in “strategic” places, places where you know people will be looking at least a few minutes a day. (Common decency dictates that I not provide you any more detail than this. You know what I mean!)
- Give them a little something “extra” in every e-mail communication. Foster the expectation that your e-mail will entertain as well as inform, via a joke, anecdote, riddle, or inspirational saying. It will increase the likelihood of your message being read.
- Use poetry to communicate some critical project details. One project manager used this technique to increase the on-time attendance at a daily status meeting during a critical project juncture. People showed up on time to hear the kick-off poem that captured key issues for the day’s meeting.
All things said and done, it doesn’t matter whether you forward e-mails or you send out smoke-signals to convey your messages, so long as you communicate! Communication is essential for project success. So, make sure that you communicate, and that you communicate effectively.
Scrappily Yours, Kimberly
P.S. If you feel an irresistible urge to read more about communication and other project what not please do pre-order my Scrappy Project Management book at my publisher’s website. It’s highly likely to be available by August.